Two things are often cited as keeping solar panels from becoming mainstream: costs and an inconsistent installation process. But a new initiative is aiming to make solar energy systems more accessible.
Solar panels provide a great source of sustainable energy, but for many, the hurdles and costs to installing a solar energy system outweigh the benefits. Now, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation are taking steps to change that.
The groups announced a new movement, called the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) initiative, to streamline the permitting process and cut costs of solar panel installation at this week’s annual industry conference, Solar Power International.
As it is now, the permitting and inspection process adds about $7,000 in direct and indirect costs, about $1.00 per watt, to the average residential solar energy system, according to the groups.
SolarAPP aims at lowering this cost through an automated, standardized installation process that would include:
- A safety and skills training and certification program for installers
- An online platform, which would be provided to local governments at no cost, to register and automatically screen qualifying energy systems
- A list of equipment standards based on the new process
- The creation of system design standards
- A model for instantaneous permitting for home and small commercial solar and battery storage systems installed by certified installers and contractors
“The goal is to make solar permitting more straightforward, and more routine, while at the same time maintaining the safety and reliability that U.S. solar projects are known for,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO, in a press release.
The initiative would also include establishing a program administrator to oversee and implement the new standardized process.
“An automated solar permitting process will reduce unnecessary costs and give Americans more freedom to choose how they meet their energy needs,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation, in the release. “With this plan, we have a clear path forward to make solar installations even more affordable and widespread.”